Representative Leonela “Leo” Felix (D) was elected in November 2020 to the seat in House District 61 in Pawtucket. She is a member of the House Judiciary Committee. In 2023, she was elected by her fellow caucus members to serve as co-chair of the Rhode Island Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian-American and Pacific Islander Caucus (RIBLIA).
During the 2023 session, Representative Felix sponsored a law to promote “transit-oriented development,” or housing for all income levels near transit hubs like the Pawtucket/Central Falls train station. The bill is part of a package of new laws to address the state’s housing crisis. Pawtucket is well positioned to take advantage of this additional funding and new laws.
Representative Felix also successfully passed bills to protect homeowners facing foreclosure and ensure bail money is returned at the completion of the case. She also helped secure significant funding increases for Pawtucket public schools, including multilingual learners and special education students.
In 2022, she sponsored a law that stops mandatory DNA collections from participants in the state’s diversion program, amending the law so that DNA would only be collected from those convicted of violent crimes. She also sponsored a law that enumerates penalties for the open carrying of loaded shotguns and rifles in Rhode Island, part of a package of bills aimed at gun safety.
During her first session, she sponsored a law that prohibits clauses in pharmacy contracts that prevent pharmacists from offering customers more affordable prescription options. She also sponsored a law that prevents candidates who embezzle their campaign funds from paying their restitution to their own campaign accounts. Instead, restitution must be deposited into the Rhode Island Crime Victim Compensation Program Fund, which assists crime victims with expenses related to putting their lives back together after a violent crime.
She was also selected in 2021 as one of 19 leaders from across the country to join the NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders), a selective national network of state and local elected officials.
A passionate community advocate, Representative Felix served as the policy director at Progreso Latino, one of the leading organizations advocating for the state’s Latinx and immigrant communities. She served on the Rhode Island Commission for Health Advocacy and Equity, and chaired the policy and advocacy committee of the Immigrant Coalition of Rhode Island. In 2019, she was named to the inaugural Public Leaders for Inclusion Council by America Indivisible. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of OpenDoors RI.
Born in Boston on Oct. 4, 1987, Representative Felix spent her childhood in the Dominican Republic, her parents’ native home. She graduated from Charles E. Shea High School in Pawtucket in 2005, received her associate’s degree from the Community College of Rhode Island in 2011, and graduated cum laude from Rhode Island College with degrees in justice studies and sociology in 2013. She worked full time while attending law school at New England Law/Boston and received her Juris Doctorate Degree in 2018.
Representative Felix works as the ethics education coordinator in the legal department for the City of Providence, focused on ethics education and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. She resides in Pawtucket with her husband, Greg Kowalski, and her dogs, Chiquita, Chanel and Lord Blackington.